Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Where Will Be the Next Earthquake?

Along the shore of the Pacific Ocean, known as the “Ring of Fire” because of its seismic and volcanic activity, there has been quite a bit of activity recently. This past week there has been the 9.0 earthquake in Japan. Earlier this year there was a 7.1 earthquake in Chile in January, a 5.4 magnitude quake in China on March 10, and a 6.3 quake in New Zealand in February. There were two significant off-shore quakes in Chile this year, both over 6.0, and some underwater quakes in the Pacific, again all this year. Although it’s not along the Pacific Rim, we had a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti last year. Scientists tell us that these quakes are not related to each other since they are thousands of miles apart, but still, I wonder.

I don’t know if this level of activity is typical, but I’m beginning to wonder if “the Big One” is going to hit some part of the U.S. soon. According to the seismologists, we are overdue for large quakes along the San Andreas fault in California and the New Madrid fault in the Midwest. In addition, there are a number of fault lines in and around Puget Sound in Washington State that could cause a significant earthquake and tsunami. To be prepared for any emergency, what can we do?

What we can do is be prepared for any number of possibilities, especially if you live in an area like California that has a number of disasters that can occur: forest fires, earthquakes, mudslides, floods, and tsunamis. First, we should pressure our government officials to make sure all nuclear power plants are adequately prepared and protected against earthquakes (and tsunamis if located on the coast or an inlet). Emergency plans should be in place and emergency personnel should be adequately trained for such emergencies. Millions of dollars from Homeland Security have been dispensed to states, counties, and municipalities since 9/11, so make your officials accountable for how that money is used.

Second, we and our families should be prepared for a number of possibilities. How? A number of ways:

(1) In any emergency, you may be stuck in your house for a while without power and maybe clean water. Have bottles of water in storage, non-perishable food on hand (enough to last for a while), powdered milk (if you have children), and several hundred dollars in cash since ATMs and credit card machines may be down. If you have a fireplace, keep an adequate supply of firewood so you can keep warm if the disaster strikes in the winter.

(2) You may have to evacuate, so you should be prepared to move quickly with the things you need. Either have a backpack filled with what you’ll need, or keep handy a list of items to quickly pack in case of emergency. Below are some suggestions:

Underwear and socks
Toilet paper/Kleenex
Toiletries, cash
Manual can opener, bottle opener, pocket knife
Change of clothes
Waterproof shoes
Umbrella, blanket
Appropriate jacket for the season
Bottles of water, prescription medications
Cap or warm hat, lighter or matches
Cell phones & chargers
Passports, wallets
Flashlight, extra batteries
Food: high protein breakfast bars, nuts, etc.
Sunglasses, bandages, sunscreen

Several changes of clothes
Blankets, pillows
Canned food, other food
Plastic bowels, dishes
Eating utensils
Cutting knives
Bottled drinks
Oil for car, gas can

Warm boots, wool socks
Heavy coat, jacket or parka
Scarf, knit cap, several pairs of gloves
Chapstick, heavy pants
Sweaters, long underwear

Turn down heat, notify friends/neighbors of your departure
Close and lock doors and windows
Throw out perishable food
Disconnect appliances and computer
Unplug and open refrigerator and freezer
Waterproof house as best you can if danger of flood
Sign on front door saying how you can be reached

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